Slice of Life: Testing Meerkat to Stream a Corner Concert

(Each day in March, a whole bunch of educators are writing Slices of Life — capturing the small moments. It is facilitated by Two Writing Teachers. You write, too.)

Corner concert

I have been curious about the live-streaming video app called Meerkat. It’s pretty simple to use. Download the app. Hit the play and you are live on Twitter and the Web. I guess Twitter itself is nearing a launch of its own app — Periscope, I think it is called — but I wanted to try out Meerkat myself.

So, I figured, maybe I will play and live-stream a song. I have this idea for “corner concerts” — short, one-song streams of playing live for a few minutes, maybe on a regular schedule, and see if anyone cares to listen.

I set up my iPad yesterday, grabbed my guitar and hit the play button and … well … played a song of mine, called Ease Your Mind. It was interesting because for the first part of the song, no one was watching. Little icons pop up in the corner when folks have opened your live-stream video. Then, I started to see a few visitors (in the video, you can can see me look at the screen and smile a bit), so I extended the song an extra verse and chorus before signing off.

Meerkat saves the video to your device, so I uploaded it into YouTube easily enough. I’ll keep tinkering and playing around, and thinking about the possibilities of your mobile device being a live-stream possibility (good for conferences, maybe?).

Thanks for reading. And if you were one of the icons in my stream, much thanks.

Peace (in the stream),


Playing with the ParaPara Animation Tool

Check this out:

I stumbled into an open source, online animation tool that is simple to use and pretty nifty way to teach animation to kids. ParaPara is a Japanese animation tool that allows for simple animation (and apparently, there is a way to collaborate with others … looking into that feature …) Mozilla’s Webmaker hosts a tutorial on how to use it, with links to the ParaPara site.

Once you make your animation, it kicks out a link and then an embed code, so that you can embed like I did with my Happy Friend animation that I created in just a few minutes.

What are you waiting for? Get making!

Making Animation with ParaPara

Peace (in the frame),

PS –

Slice of Life: Mix and Remix (and Remix again?)

(Each day in March, a whole bunch of educators are writing Slices of Life — capturing the small moments. It is facilitated by Two Writing Teachers. You write, too.)

Write, Share, Give

Sometimes, opportunity presents itself. Yesterday morning, I was checking out the Twitter hasthag for #walkmyworld (a series of media-centric activities around the theme of identity and creation — see more here) when I noticed that Shawna had posted a digital poem. Of course, I was curious. And she was looking for feedback. I went there, at her blog site, to see what she had been up to.

It was a lovely rendition of a Georgia Heard poem about school and conformity and “straight lines” that we expect our students to fall into when they come into school, instead of the crazy zig-zag of life outside of school. I’m not philosophically opposed to imposing order on the day – and plenty of kids need that consistency, given the chaos of their lives at home. But Shawna did such a nice job.

Take a look.

I left her a comment (including a request to share out the “how she did it” at her blog) and then decided to go one step further — I decided to honor her poem by remixing it, via Webmaker Popcorn Maker. If you have not used Popcorn, it allows you to layer in various media and do other interesting things with online video. The remix does not affect the original. It only borrows it. Remix is a way to honor the original, and in this case, I was hoping to add a layer of my own art to Shawn’s art.

Check it out.

And of course, one of the beauties of Popcorn is the ability to remix the remix. So, why not give it a try? You can either click on the “remix” button at the top right of my Popcorn Project, or you can just click here and get started (no account needed to play around with the remix.)

See what you can make. And then maybe write about it.

Peace (in the share),

Slice of Life: Without Hot Water

(Each day in March, a whole bunch of educators are writing Slices of Life — capturing the small moments. It is facilitated by Two Writing Teachers. You write, too.)

Write, Share, Give

Some things we take for granted in life. Like, hot water.

Yesterday morning, we heard a loud noise in the basement as we took showers. “Just a cold pipe or something,” we told ourselves. “It will go away.”

It didn’t.

By night, when my wife was using some hot water and the noise seemed like some monster living in our basement, I finally grabbed a flashlight to get a closer look. The water heater was banging away on the wall and a small drip of water was coming off one of the hoses. The floor was wet. There was a faint smell of something electrical in the air.

Uh oh.

We unplugged the whole shebang, called the plumber (who promptly returned our call at 8 p.m. and is coming over today — we love our plumber!), and began to fret over the fix-it bill. This morning, I did a cold shave with freezing water — it reminded me of my time in the military, out in training in the woods, where the only water for shaving and cleaning was cold canteen water.

We’re roughing it this morning and hope the hot water is back by this evening …

Peace (and warmth),

Transformed into a Robot

My youngest son has a sketchbook where he is creating a whole menagerie of robot designs. He showed he this one recently: The Daddy-o-Tron. I feel honored to have been made robotic. Notice how he gave me a side-kick robot — the Book-o-Tron.

Daddy-o-Tron Robot

Peace (with them ears),

Slice of Life: Charting the Listeners

(Each day in March, a whole bunch of educators are writing Slices of Life — capturing the small moments. It is facilitated by Two Writing Teachers. You write, too.)

Write, Share, Give


In another writing space, in which connected friends from the National Writing Project write regularly and different folks take on different writing prompt hosting each week, my friend, Fred M., posed the question this week of nurturing active listeners. Fred, citing Peter Elbow’s work, used the launching idea of: “Listening is NOT waiting for the other person to stop talking.”

It’s a great topic, and one my colleagues at school and I talk about a lot, mostly from the deficit viewpoint: “Why isn’t he listening?” or “She was staring out the window again” or “He never participates in class discussions or raises his hand.” Maybe we need to think more of, what I am doing to bring her back to the classroom? Or how I am engaging him in something he is passionate about? That’s another day, another time.

I wrote to Fred’s prompt about some story activities that I do that encourage listening skills and then started to think about a typical class. I had this idea to use one of my four sixth grade classes, and to break it down (very unscientifically) along categories of listeners.

Here is what I came up with:

A Class of Listeners

Fred suggested I share the chart back with my sixth graders and get their input and perspective. I just might do that.

Peace (I’m listening),

Slice of Life: When We Used to Fill the Book Bags

(Each day in March, a whole bunch of educators are writing Slices of Life — capturing the small moments. It is facilitated by Two Writing Teachers. You write, too.)

Write, Share, Give

I took my youngest son to the public library yesterday and it was there that I had one of those memory moments. Years ago, when all three boys were younger, I used to bring them to the library regularly, and we would spend at least an hour or so in the children’s section, reading stories, playing blocks, watching fish, and choosing books to bring home. It was not unusual for me to lug home a bag filled with 25 or more picture books. I’d drop the bag on the floor, and let the books spill out, and the kids would sit in the midst, reading or looking at the bounty of stories.

Now, when the older boys join me at the library, they go upstairs to the adult section or the video section (or the adult graphic novel section). My youngest is still content to sit on the floor, and I found him yesterday reading some Garfield books while I perused the shelves of the Young Adult fiction novels. I then wandered into the picture book area, and listened furtively as a father read a book to his toddler son. I said hello to the fish. I remembered.

Of course, we grabbed a few books to borrow but nothing like the past, and I guess that’s OK. Still, I often have those pangs of remembering how the library used to be our regular place for literacy (particularly on those rainy days), and now as I think about the three boys and their abilities in reading and writing (all very strong), I like to think that our visits to the world of books and the regular stacks of stories we brought home to read together have had an influence on them. I know that to be true (and worry about my students whose families never entered their library or brought books home or read aloud to them when they were younger.)

I’m being wistful with this Slice of Life, but I am also grateful that we live in a place that has such rich public spaces for anyone to borrow all kinds of books. Libraries remain the rich heart of literacy, and even though our visits are less frequent, I know my boys realize the library is there for them, whenever they need something to read or something to explore, and I know they value our library as much as I do. Of that, I am certain.

Peace (in the stacks),

Slice of Life: The Life Cycle of a Balloon

(Each day in March, a whole bunch of educators are writing Slices of Life — capturing the small moments. It is facilitated by Two Writing Teachers. You write, too.)

Before I get into the Life Cycle of a Balloon, perhaps I should note just how odd and strange sixth graders can be. Just when I think I am weird in my own way of thinking and writing (and I am, happily), one of my 11 or 12 year olds will come up with something off-kilter and unexpected. I love that.

She walked into the classroom in the morning.

“I have half of my bus ready to root for the blue team,” she announced. Our Quidditch team is blue. Apparently, she has been rallying the troops on her bus to support our team.

“Oh?” I asked, getting paperwork on my desk sorted out. I was only halfway paying attention.

“Yep,” she said, grinning. “I promised not to tell them the Life Cycle of  a Balloon.”

That got my attention. The Life Cycle of a Balloon? Another few students had come in to the room by then. One classmate, a close friend of hers, groaned. “Not that!” the friend said, slapping her forehead in a fake dramatic move.

“What’s the Life Cycle of a Balloon?” I asked, a bit naive.

“No!” the classmate wailed. “Don’t ask her!”

Too late.

She smiled at me, and then, in a quick, rhythmic voice with a lilting tone of “now you asked for it,” she went into a memorized sing-song verse about a blue balloon found by a balloon man, who blows it up and ties a string to it, sends it skyward where it gets hit by an airplane, falls to the Earth (but not before hitting a passing bird), gets found by another balloon man, who blows it up, ties a string to it, sends it skyward, into space, where it hits a satellite ….

“Oh,” I say, as she keeps going on and on, looking at me directly. Her bus-mates agreed to support the blue team as a way to get her to stop repeating her story. She was still spinning her tale as I realized this. Still, the story unfolds.

“See?” her friend says. “Now you’ve gone and done it.”

At that, though, she stopped the story and smiled even a bigger smile.

“And that,” she said, with a little bow, “is the Life Cycle of a Balloon” and then erupted into giggles. I had to laugh, too. Even her friend, exasperated as she was, smiled.

Peace (never pops),

Book Review: The Everything Store

I’ve been reading a selection of books about the wave of technology companies dominating our landscape, mostly as a way to better understand how they came to be and who are the people behind the ideas. So, Brad Stone’s The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon fit that theme nicely.

Amazon (or should I say, as the company always insists?) is an amazing story of one man, with a grand idea, who is slowly but methodically enacting his vision of a one-stop online store for anything. Jeff Bezos and his organization is also characterized as being pretty ruthless in its practices, using its power to wield more power against smaller and bigger companies, at least according to Stone. It sees a market. It takes the market.

I won’t go through a full review of Stone’s book here, except to notice on interesting thing, as a writer and a teacher of writing.  (And to note, Stone has come under fire by Amazon folks for way he describes the company, but I found it pretty balanced in both praise and criticism.)

There is an intriguing section in the book where Bezos orders an edict to his managers: no more Powerpoints in meetings. Instead, Bezos requires all of his managers to write narratives of their plans for their divisions, and each meeting starts out with a shared reading of those narratives. Stone says that Bezos believes that writing is a way of thinking, while Powerpoint is a glossed-over version of explanation. The reaction from his staff is mixed and miffed, now that they had to recall all of the writing skills they learned back in school for real life.

You think Bezos ever attended a National Writing Project Summer Institute?

Even if you don’t admire Amazon for its size and scope, or maybe even Bezos for way he runs his company, you have to admire him for understanding the potential of an idea, and to put it down into writing as a way to better understand it.

Peace (in the store),

Slice of Life: Did Kentucky Win?

(This is a Slice of Life post, as facilitated by Two Writing Teachers. Lots of educators are writing about the small moments of their days. You write, too.)
March madness 2015

Did Kentucky win?

This is the question I woke with in my head this morning, and I am sure it will be the first question each of my boys will ask when they come down to breakfast.

We’re deep into the start of March Madness in our house, each with our brackets. They are all athletes, so they get caught up in the college basketball fever. Even the dog has a bracket. He chooses teams based on which closed fist he smells when presented with a match-up. The boys have a bet around whomever gets the most wins gets the dog on their bed for an entire week, instead of sharing him night by night. I don’t know what the dog gets if he wins (peace and quiet? Extra kibble?).

We saw a few upsets already, but nothing that took my bracket down yet. Yet. The Kentucky game was on too late for us for a school night,  with a start around 9:40 p.m., but this weekend, our television will get more playing time than it has all year (we don’t watch a lot of TV in our house).

Yes, Kentucky won.

Peace (in the bracket),